The Chancellor has stood by Vince Cable, saying he was a “powerful ally” in Government after the Business Secretary claimed he could bring down the coalition.
George Osborne said Mr Cable had “forgotten more about economics” than the shadow chancellor Alan Johnson ever knew, during heated exchanges in the Commons.
He described Mr Johnson as the “Incredible No-man” for failing to come up with alternative proposals to cut the budget deficit after the shadow chancellor claimed the Treasury had no “Plan B”.
Mr Johnson sought to exploit divisions in the coalition after Mr Cable told under-cover reporters from The Daily Telegraph the speed of reforms was like a Maoist revolution.
During a meeting with the reporters, posing as constituents in his Twickenham constituency, Mr Cable said he believed the Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to reduce or scrap the winter fuel allowance for pensioners.
In the Commons, the shadow chancellor teased Mr Osborne: “Does the Great Leader, the Chancellor, recognise himself in the Business Secretary’s description of ‘cack-handed’ Tories and, strictly speaking, does he believe we have waited so long for any sign of a strategy on jobs and growth because he is so out-of-step with his cabinet colleague?”
Mr Osborne responded by seeking to remind the shadow chancellor of divisions in his own party. To cheers from the coalition’s benches, he said: “The Business Secretary is a powerful ally in the Government in promoting growth and, frankly, has forgotten more about economics than the shadow chancellor ever knew.
“I would refer the shadow chancellor to the statement he gave about his own party in which he said ‘On economic credibility we are in a really worrying position’.”
Mr Osborne added: “He (Mr Johnson) is the Incredible No-man, if he wants to do Christmas analogies. Every time we put forward any plan on deficit reduction he has said ‘no’.
“He is running out of time to come forward with sensible, credible contributions to the economic debate about how we get Britain growing again because at the moment the Christmas lights are on but there’s no-one at home.”